…And Perhaps Metallica Can Help Us Sort Out This Global Warming Thing

July 29, 2008

Eighteen months ago, Ryan Crocker was confirmed as US ambassador to Iraq and, I confess, I’m not really sure what he’s done during that time period. I mean, I can’t recall reading anything about him (and, probably to my detriment, I try to read a lot on current events).

I also might have just overlooked anything I’ve read about Crocker because when his name pops into my head all I can think of is Iron Maiden. One of the earliest things I ever read about him mentioned his love of Iron Maiden.

So, now when I hear/read “Crocker,” my brain spits out “Iron Maiden” in an involuntary reaction that surely would make Pavlov smile. I wonder if the collected works of Iron Maiden have had any influence on his decision-making (Maiden did draw upon historical events and military conflict a lot for imagery and inspiration). Someone could be basing a thesis on this theme even as I type?

That person shouldn’t be me. I never had a metal phase as a kid, but I did like Maiden. One friend had a younger brother who worshipped the band and my good friend Chris – who skewed more toward Devo, The Cure, and Robyn Hitchcock – truly endeared me to them.

As I recall, Chris had The Number Of The Beast recorded onto one side of a cassette (Maxell, I’d guess) and, on the other, in typical fashion for him – Men Without Hats’ debut. If Men Without Hats had ever influenced foreign policy, there would be a lot more thatched homes, lute-playing little people, and villagers fascinated by maypoles (if you’ve seen the video for The Safety Dance, you understand).

Of course, a part of me is suspicious and wonders if this confession of Crocker being an Iron Maiden fan is nothing more than an attempt to win my heart and mind.

And, I just saw that bizarre 9/11 coin commercial again – would it be possible to buy an Iron Maiden t-shirt in Liberia?

Meanwhile, because sometimes you simply need a little Iron Maiden…

Iron Maiden – Run To The Hills
The song from The Number Of The Beast that hooked me. The song gallops at breakneck speed as Bruce Dickinson wails a lyric about the slaughter of Native Americans. I somewhat remember us chancing across the video on MTV’s Headbangers’ Ball a handful of times.

Iron Maiden – The Trooper
I’ve seen no Maiden while scavaging for vinyl, save for one mangled copy of Piece Of Mind. I couldn’t remember The Trooper, but Paloma has been pushing me to buy a pair of Van’s adorned with the logo for The Trooper. Not as memorable as some of their songs to me, but it is possibly the only song I know with the word musket in it.

Iron Maiden – Two Minutes To Midnight
Suposedly, Ambassador Crocker has a poster from this song hanging in his office. I’m not sure what to make of that as Two Minutes To Midnight is about The Doomsday Clock used by the Bulletin Of Atomic Scientists to denote how close mankind is to nuclear armageddon. For those keeping score, the clock is currently set to five minutes to midnight.

Iron Maiden – Wasted Years
It caused quite a hullabaloo when Maiden used synthesizers on their album Somewhere In Time, but none are to be found on Wasted Years. Lyrical, it fits well with Nike’s slogan of “Just Do It,” and, if Motorhead can be used to sell cell phones, Iron Maiden could certainly sell tennis shoes.

Iron Maiden – The Wicker Man
For something of more recent vintage, The Wicker Man is from Brave New World, which saw the group’s most successful line-up reunite in 2002. Like much of my favorite Iron Maiden songs, it’s more fun than killin’ strangers.

At Least Cooper Huckabee Got To Keep His Pants On

July 22, 2008

I was channel surfing the other day and happened upon a station where the closing credits to the movie Urban Cowboy were rolling. Perhaps because I can be amused by something as simple as a piece of toast, I watched as the names scrolled across the screen. One caught my eye – Cooper Huckabee.

It was an unusual name and it was nowhere near the top of the cast, but it made me wonder about this fellow as I had never heard of him and Urban Cowboy was released in the early ’80s. Was this Mr. Huckabee’s fifteen minutes of fame?

I wondered what his life was like during the time the movie was filmed. Was he a struggling waiter/actor who had finally landed a role in a major motion picture? Did he make excited phone calls home (maybe some small town in the hinterlands of Iowa) telling family and friends that he had finally made it? Did his parents breathe a sigh of relief? Did their disappointment that young Cooper had abandoned a college scholarship or their plans for him to take over the family feed store to pursue an acting career turn to pride? Did his hometown newspaper do a feature story on him and the mayor give him the key to the city on “Cooper Huckabee Day” as most of the town’s 2,000 residents watched?

Did he believe that this would be the stepping stone to his becoming the next Robert DeNiro or Al Pacino? Does he regret abandoning the family business now that it is a quarter century later and his career hasn’t followed such a star-bound trajectory?

I also wonder about Don McManus. McManus has appeared in over 80 movies and television programs in mostly bit parts, including an episode of Seinfeld. He also had a role in The Shawshank Redemption, a movie that is one of the most critically acclaimed pictures of all time.

If you’ve seen the movie, he appears in one of the iconic scenes, one in which Tim Robbins’ character locks himself in the warden’s office and plays an opera recording over the prison loudspeaker. It’s a powerful scene and one in which McManus gets most of his screen time. Unfortunately, much of that screen time consists of him sitting on a toilet, reading a comic book as he, in his character’s words, “pinches a loaf.”

I wonder if he has mixed emotions about being in such a pivotal scene of such an acclaimed movie with his trousers around his ankles. I wonder if his grandchildren will brag about his cinematic career, pointing to that scene as the highlight of his work.

Maybe my musings concerning these two fellows are rooted in wondering what it’s like to get so close to your wildest dreams only to fall just short of it being everything for which you might have hoped. Maybe I wonder if Mr. Huckabee and Mr. McManus consider it a blessing or a cosmic tease – the cruel fulfillment of a wish they once made where they said, “I want to be in the movies,” without being more specific or reading the fine print.

David Bowie – Fame

Crowded House – Fame Is

Mission Of Burma – Fame And Fortune

Fluffy – Too Famous

Playing Pinball With The Man Under The Most Famous Hair Of The ’80s

July 18, 2008

For better or for worse, A Flock Of Seagulls was the first band that I truly adopted as my band. Hey, it is what it is. I Ran hit the airwaves and hooked me, the cover art for their debut album fascinated me, and I loved the name.

Their image was a relatively insignificant factor as MTV didn’t arrive for us until two years after the band. The infamous coif of lead singer Mike Score was memorable, but I simply loved the songs. They sounded like the future.

Before the ‘80s ended, but well past A Flock Of Seagulls’ brief burst of popularity, a desire to finally see them live led me to a dive in a rather dodgy area of Indianapolis. My girlfriend at the time – whose interest in music was limited and in the Lionel Richie, Air Supply portion of the dial – was a trooper.

And so, my reward was original lead singer Score and four other guys who could have been any anonymous hair metal band from the late ‘80s – they were three seagulls shy of the MTV-era flock.

Somehow, I ended up playing pinball with Score. He seemed quite miserable as the front man for White Lion and he told me how the rest of the original band was back in England because “they didn’t want to work.” Surprisingly, I don’t recall if he was good at pinball.

As for the infamous hair, it was not fussed over, but simply pulled back into a long ponytail and tucked under a baseball cap.

Now, despite popular perception that has labeled A Flock A Seagulls as fluff and snarky pop culture types who use them for target practice, I will defend my first band. True, although they, too, were from Liverpool, they were no Beatles, but they were certainly no Oxo, either.

A Flock Of Seagulls – A Space Age Love Song
Sure, I Ran was the bigger hit and, for the most part, only those who lived through 1982 could even name another song by the band. However, I’ve always preferred A Space Age Love Song to the former. It’s very wooshy in the best possible way.

A Flock Of Seagulls – Committed
Not even possessing a turntable, I would still browse the bins of vinyl in 1983, trying to find music by A Flock Of Seagulls which wasn’t available on cassette. This was how I discovered the twelve-inch single, specifically one for their song (It’s Not Me) Talking with the eye-catching cover featuring a giant seagull attacking a building. I can’t recall if Committed was on there or not, but it’s a delightfully manic little track which never appeared on an actual album.

A Flock Of Seagulls – Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You)
This is the song – their Stairway To Heaven, their Free Bird, their Satisfaction. If Phil Spector had been born twenty years later, this is what it would have sounded like.

A Flock Of Seagulls – Transfer Affection
Most of the time A Flock Of Seagulls sang about aliens, Russian cosmonauts, technology, and aliens. However, Transfer Affection was one of their few ballads and even though it still has an icy cool about it, it’s actually rather sweet.

A Flock Of Seagulls – The More You Live, The More You Love
From the band’s third album (and ultimate swansong) The Story Of A Young Heart, The More You Love, The More You Love got a bit of radio play where I lived and, as MTV was available by 1984 for our community, I do recall seeing the video a handful of times. Not a bad way to go out.